WWE NXT TakeOver: [R] Evolution
Winter Park, Florida 12/11/14
1.) Kevin Owens vs. CJ Parker: **1/2
The show kicks off with the NXT debut of Kevin Owens, formerly known as Kevin Steen. He comes out to a great ovation, as one would expect, and his first opponent is CJ Parker. This was a very strong debut for Kevin Owens. He got a lot of his stuff in, and the crowd really reacted to everything he did. We also saw some blood split when Parker broke the nose of Kevin Owens, which, in an interesting way, actually added to the match. In the end, Owens got the win (as he should have), and has an impressive showing in his debut.
2.) NXT Tag Team Titles – The Lucha Dragons (Kalisto & Sin Cara) vs. The Vaudevillains (Aiden English & Simon Gotch): **¼
Thankfully the NXT Tag Team Titles are finally off The Ascension. Here we have The Lucha Dragons defend their titles against The Vaudevillains. This was a fine match. I’ll freely admit that I enjoy The Vaudevillains (though, realistically, I think their ceiling is in NXT), and it’s nice to see Kalisto getting a push of some kind. Again, this was decent, but nothing really special. Kalisto & Sin Cara get the win here to retain their titles.
3.) Baron Corbin vs. Tye Dillinger: N/R
Yeah, there really wasn’t much to this match. Corbin squashes Dillinger in less than a minute, and then he has a confrontation with Bull Dempsey. Looks like we’re getting a match between those two in the future.
4.) The Ascension vs. Finn Balor & Hideo Itami: ***1/2
Back at NXT TakeOver: Fatal Four-Way, The Ascension tried to make a statement after losing the NXT Tag Team Titles by attacking the debuting Hideo Itami (the former KENTA). It didn’t work out for them on that night, and they’ve been feuding ever since. Itami needed a partner to even the odds, and it ended up finding a great partner in the debuting Finn Balor (the former Prince Devitt). Balor makes his entrance for this match in his famous body paint which, seeing it for the first time in WWE, was AWESOME!!! The crowd went crazy for his entrance, and the reactions of The Ascension to this really added to the whole thing as well. As far as the match goes, it was actually pretty good. This was probably the best match The Ascension have ever had, and it should come as no surprise that it comes against two great wrestlers like Hideo Itami & Finn Balor. Eventually, Itami & Balor pick up the win, seemingly putting The Ascension behind him and looking forward to 2015.
5.) NXT Women’s Title – Charlotte vs. Sasha Banks: ****
These two used to be partners, but Banks eventually broke off and went on her own, to the point where she’s now earned a title shot against Charlotte. This was a great women’s match! It’s so great to see the women treated seriously on NXT, as opposed to the Main Roster. They worked really hard, and their efforts resulted in the best match of the night up to this point. Great back & forth action from start to finish in this one, and both looked really good. Eventually, Charlotte was able to pick up the victory to retain her NXT Women’s Title.
6.) NXT Title – Adrian Neville vs. Sami Zayn: *****
We’ve finally arrived to the Main Event! Over the last few months, Sami Zayn has really become the face of NXT, but he has yet to claim the NXT Title. He came incredibly close at NXT TakeOver: Fatal Four-Way, but lost out to Adrian Neville via less-than-honorable means. Additionally, Zayn put on a self-imposed stipulation, saying that if he failed to win the NXT Title, he’d leave NXT. Before I talk about the match, I actually want to say that I really like what they’ve done with Neville’s character in the buildup to this match. He hasn’t fully turned heel, but he certainly is leaning in that direction, and it really added to the built of this match. The promos that he & Zayn had leading up to this match were great.
Now, as far as this match goes, it was absolutely incredible!!! From start to finish, this match was so awesome in so many ways. One of the things I love in wrestling is that when we’re able to get the perfect combination of great wrestling and great storytelling, the result is usually spectacular, and this match was no exception. Of course you had awesome wrestling in this match. Adrian Neville & Sami Zayn are two of the best out there. At the same time, you also had a great story being told, with Sami Zayn trying to put his losses at the previous NXT Specials behind him, while going up against Adrian Neville, who’s been nearly-unbeatable since winning the NXT Title in February. The action was incredible, the story was fantastic, and the crowd was invested in everything that happened. This is exactly what you want out of pro-wrestling, and in my eyes, this was an instant classic. In the end, Zayn is finally able to put away Neville to win the NXT Title!!!
After the match, Zayn celebrates his massive achievement. The roster comes out to congratulate him, including Kevin Owens, who gives his best-friend a massive hug. Neville eventually comes back to, and hugs Zayn as well. It’s a dream come true for Sami Zayn, and it looks like a happy ending….until Kevin Owens shows his true colors, attacking Sami Zayn, and giving him a Powerbomb on the ring apron!!! What an incredible way to close the show.
I think this was by far the best NXT Special. While you did have a bit of a lull in the action with the NXT Tag Title Match and the Baron Corbin squash, we saw some really cool moments and great action. The debuts of Kevin Owens & Finn Balor (and Balor’s demon-body paint) were awesome, and both made instant impressions upon their debut. We also saw some great wrestling, including the best match The Ascension have ever been in, an awesome women’s match, and a Main Event that was an emotional rollercoaster and one of the best matches anywhere in 2014 (and that’s saying something). The ending was especially powerful as Kevin Owens & Sami Zayn bring their famous rivalry to the WWE. A truly enjoyable show from start to finish, and (at the time) one of the best outings from NXT.